Whatever it is, and wherever it is, Helio Castroneves is making it clear that his racing career will not be ending once his full-time ride with the Acura Team Penske IMSA team comes to an end in November. It could be IndyCar, IMSA, or Australian Supercars; as long as it’s fast and competitive, Castroneves wants in.
With Acura and Team Penske preparing to go their separate ways, the 45-year-old Brazilian doesn’t know what lies ahead, abhors the idea of retirement, and says bidding farewell to driving isn’t part of the plan.
“I still have a lot of fire,” the 21-year Penske employee told RACER. I discussed that with so many incredible drivers in recent years; I mentioned to Mario Andretti, and kept asking why he decided to just suddenly hang the shoes. He said, ‘I didn’t feel like going to the track as much,’ and I’m nowhere near being at that same place as Mario. You’ve got to be capable with the reflexes, with physical conditioning, able to sustain two and a half hours of race. I believe — because the way I take care of myself, the way I still love this sport and the way I really want to continue racing — I have a lot to offer.”
Given the power to write the script on where he’ll drive in 2021 and beyond, it’s not a surprise to hear the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner has a strong desire to pursue the one significant item — an IndyCar championship — missing from his CV. If there’s a chance of extending a relationship that began with Team Penske in 2000 to continue the quest, Castroneves would find himself in the perfect scenario.
“Roger Penske has been an incredible human being and part of my life — not career, but life we’ve been together,” he said. “So many good and difficult moments, and I want to keep those great moments alive and continue to have a good relationship with R.P. and his family and his team and entire corporation. Saying that, I understand, obviously, Roger being a businessman and sometimes, there is no way to continue; but it’s not his choice or my choice.
“At this point, when the boss says, ‘OK guys, that’s it. Green flag to go find new opportunities, but we always want to keep the guys in mind,’ I believe that they do wish and want to keep working together, if it’s possible. Hopefully, I can win my fourth (Indy) for Roger and he will say, ‘You know what, let’s do another car next year.’”
Asked if he had a number in mind for how many years he wanted to extend his driving career, Castroneves said he could, like Andretti, continue into his 50s.
“I don’t think some people understand me very well when I say that I’ve started searching for a new drive; that means I haven’t found where I think my place is meant to be if it’s not with Roger’s team,” he added. “Driving is still very much part of me. I go to sleep thinking about race cars. I wake up thinking about race cars and I want to keep it going. A number? If it’s two, three, five, 10 years, I don’t know, but I see a lot more years to come.
“I’ve got to see the opportunities. I’ve had a great experience in sports cars and I love them. I could stay in IMSA and be extremely happy. Let’s go race at Le Mans. Let’s go to Japan and do the Super Formula. Or Australia and the Supercars. A race car is race car, no matter where in the world. I was able to spend 20 years in IndyCar, another three years in sports cars. Maybe the new direction is to do more of what I’ve done, or maybe it could lead me to someplace else. The future is not known at the point, but I am looking for what’s possible for me.”